The Bible tells two true stories about men named Lazarus. They are separate people with very different circumstances. But there are also some amazing similarities.
Lazarus 1 was a poor, crippled beggar who was laid at the gate of a rich man’s house so he could ask passersby for sustenance. He had sores on his body, and the dogs licked them. Jesus told this true story. (It's not a parable.) And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The rich man wanted water and a favor, that Abraham would send Lazarus back to earth to warn his five brothers about hell. Abraham answered him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead (Luke 16:19-31).
Lazarus 2 and his sisters Martha and Mary were some of Jesus’ closest friends. They lived in the little town of Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem. When Lazarus got sick, his sisters sent word to the Lord. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. After two days, Jesus traveled with His disciples back to Bethany. He said, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. (Lazarus had been in the grave four days when Jesus approached Bethany.) Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. What amazing faith she had!
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.
Then, Jesus went to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. They did. (Doesn’t this remind you of Jesus’ own burial? He showed before His own death that He was Lord over death. I think maybe the cave and stone foreshadow Jesus’ resurrection, don’t you? In Lazarus’ case, the stone was rolled back to let him come out, and when Jesus rose, the stone had to be rolled back to let people see He was not there!)
And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:1-44)
There’s so much in these two men’s lives and deaths. Let’s look at how they’re similar:
Both Lazarus 1 and Lazarus 2 were believers. Lazarus 1 went to “Abraham’s bosom” when he died because he had faith that God would provide the Messiah. He had put his faith in Jesus, though he didn’t yet know His Name. Lazarus 2 was Jesus’ personal friend. (Anyone in Scripture who’s referred to as a friend of God is a true believer.) When he died, he also went to heaven, but he was called back to earth by the Son of God Himself.
And now, what’s different:
Lazarus 1 suffered on this earth. He was a crippled man with no means of supporting himself besides begging. The rich man despised him. Lazarus was sick, and his only companions were dogs. Nevertheless, he trusted in God and he will spend all eternity with his Savior. Lazarus 2 had a fairly comfortable life as far as we know. We don’t know if he was ever married, but he lived with his sisters in a house in Bethany. He had food to eat and a roof over his head and the best companionship in the world—family, and Jesus as his personal Friend. Though he had to go through death twice, he too will forever be with the Lord.
An interesting observation about the two:
When Jesus tells the true story about the rich man and Lazarus 1, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn his brothers. Abraham refuses. The rich man disagrees and says, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he (Abraham) said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Obviously, this Lazarus remained in heaven and didn’t go back to earth. Abraham said his brothers wouldn’t be persuaded, even when they came face-to-face with someone who had returned from the grave. Wow!
So, what happened after eye witnesses saw Jesus raise Lazarus 2, who had been dead and buried for four days? Read the immediate response: Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. . . . Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death (John 11:45-46, 53). The Bible says many believed, but others plotted to kill Jesus.
But that’s not all; they also wanted to kill Lazarus. Why? Because Lazarus was living, breathing proof of Jesus’ resurrection power—and they didn’t like it! (I guess they didn’t consider that Jesus could have raised him a second time, as easily as the first!) Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. . . . Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. (The story of Palm Sunday is here, and the passage closes with eye-witness proof of Lazarus’ being brought back from the dead.) The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record (John 12:1-3, 9-11, 17). Even though one (Lazarus 2) came back from the dead, they didn’t believe!
Have you believed in Jesus?
If you believe in Jesus, are you spreading the gospel? Jesus has power over death. He died as a substitute for sins. And He rose again! Praise Him!
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast,
unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 15:54b-58)
(Photo courtesy of www.lumoproject.com, Free Bible Images.)